Here’s a question for you.
Do you open your Christmas gifts before Christmas day?
When I was a boy, our Christmas Tree was set up and decorated shortly after Thanksgiving. Although I appreciated the garnished evergreen tree, what I truly envisioned was the joy I would experience come Christmas morning, as I opened the gifts!
Unlike some of my friends whose presents were not displayed under the tree until Christmas day, my experience was agonizingly slow and painful!
Beginning around mid-December, presents gradually began to appear under our tree. Small packages (which I suspected were practical gifts, like t-shirts, socks, and underwear) slowly began to show up first. From time to time, I would see a larger or more mysterious package, which would fill my imagination with ideas.
By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, the common question from three eager boys in our home was: “Can’t we open just one present tonight, PLEASE?”
To avoid our pleading (or whining), Mom and Dad would agree: “You can open only one present tonight. But you have to promise to wait until the morning to open the rest.”
Then, each of us boys were handed a small package to reveal that our suspicion was accurate: underwear, T-shirts, and socks had arrived — once again!
It’s not that we were not thankful. But how do you express delight over such everyday things? We would each smile and say thank you, trying to fake as much joy as possible.
Lying awake in bed on Christmas Eve, I would imagine my friends riding their new bicycles or playing with their new baseball gloves, while I stood before them wearing my new T-shirt, underwear, and socks!
I would remind myself before I drifted off to sleep: “There’s still hope!” There was still a present or two under the tree that was yet to be opened. Possibly, real joy would come in the morning.
In poetic form, the prophet Isaiah describes a time when despair suppressed joy (Isaiah 35:1-10). Times were hard. Fertile agricultural areas failed to yield fruit because of drought, and their once-plentiful land had become a wilderness.
Although many of Isaiah’s peers despaired, and many of his friends had forgotten—and had forsaken—the covenant God had made with His people, he challenged them to encourage the depressed and fearful.
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense [payment] of God. He will come and save you” (Isaiah 35:3-4).
Waiting, for my brothers and me on Christmas Eve, and for all of us, wasn’t—and isn’t—pleasant. However, to experience JOY requires us to WAIT. The Psalmist expresses this feeling so well:
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
As we wait for Christmas Day to arrive, like Isaiah and his friends, our hearts can also be anxious. Many things trouble us. The fear of “what will be” can overload us with weight, as we wait for the arrival of Jesus.
Whether you open your gifts on Christmas Day, or before, may we not overlook the ONE GIFT who transforms our wilderness and provides joy for those who remain steadfast in his love.
Here’s some joyful news!
There’s a package for each of us with our names on it! And this GIFT provides abundant JOY!
Are you looking for a place to receive spiritual direction and encouragement in these challenging times? Please consider joining my mailing list. Each Wednesday you’ll receive my latest blog posts with practical content designed to support you in your life and faith.